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Beef Value Is More Than Pounds

29 July 2011

Missouri

US - Adding value to beef goes beyond adding pounds to calves, says a beef meat marketing authority. Producers must listen to the consumer's demand for eating quality.

"Always remember the ultimate driver of consumer satisfaction is tenderness and flavour," says Larry Corah, vice president, Certified Angus Beef, Manhattan, Kansas.

Beef producers will face challenges in price volatility, high cost of production and global impact on their product, but consumers will increasingly pay more for better-quality product.

"Beef producers today are at a crossroads trying to decide whether to stay commodity-focused or brand-focused," Mr Corah said in remarks prepared for the Beef Reproduction Conference, 31 August to the first of September at Joplin, Missouri.

Already, consumers identify quality with the USDA quality grades such as Prime and Choice, Mr Corah says. But the tenderness and flavour must be consistent.

Producers, who stick with the commodity track, must become more proficient and willing to sell at lower prices. Brand-focused producers will likely receive more dollars, but they may lose some flexibility in their management.

Mr Corah promotes what he calls "The Missouri Recipe" for quality beef production. The recipe is based on research at the University of Missouri (MU) Thompson Farm, Spickard, Missouri.

Research from the last 15 years was led by David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist and conference co-host. The MU commercial beef herd now produces 100 per cent Choice grade or higher in steers fed out for market.

The secret of success is using high-accuracy proven sires by fixed-time artificial insemination.

"When trying to create a positive eating experience while still generating a profit for the producer, the 'right' genetics is step one in hitting the quality target," Mr Corah says.

Choose genetics that leads to marbling in the beef, he adds. Sire selection is easier now with the genetic information from marbling EPDs (expected progeny differences) and genetic indexes such as $B. Using the data helps sort among the wide variations among bulls.

"A key to success in the Missouri Recipe has been effective use of artificial insemination," Mr Corah says. "This allows for use of proven genetics beyond marbling."

Cattle from the MU Thompson Farm herd now regularly grade 85 per cent CAB and Prime. Early adopters among Missouri herds are beating the MU record already. Nationally, cattle at packing plants average just over three per cent Prime grade.

Mike Kasten, rancher from Millersville, Missouri, will appear on the conference programme to share his herd records. His premium bonuses average more than $177 per calf, long run.

"Missourians say they can do better," Mr Corah says. He noted that nationally, the Certified Angus Beef acceptance rate runs 22-24 per cent.

"A realistic goal would be 35-40 per cent," he adds.

In his notes, Corah details the recipe package, which goes far beyond genetics to include herd health, nutrition, breeding for uniformity, pre-weaning vaccinations, preconditioning and total management all the way through marketing. Development of replacement heifers is a key part of the Missouri Recipe.

In another part of the programme, speakers will report on visits to ranches in South America, Patterson says. "Brazil now dominates the commodity beef market. Those who choose to raise commodity beef will compete with the low-cost producers of the world."

"The progress Brazil is making on premium beef will amaze US producers," Mr Patterson adds.

The conference will be at the Joplin Expo Center, which survived the deadly tornado of 22 May. A field trip will go to the Joplin Regional Stockyards, Carthage, Missouri, for demonstrations and a grilled steak dinner.

All who register will receive a book, which includes Corah's talk. "This will become the textbook for beef reproduction for producers," Mr Patterson says.



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